Matildas fans were collectively stunned on Saturday after young gun Mary Fowler was benched ahead of the international friendly against Canada in Langford.
Coach Tony Gustavsson named the Manchester City ace as a substitute, alongside high profile teammates such as Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord, Ellie Carpenter and Katrina Gorry, while captain Sam Kerr is injured.
It comes as Fowler’s boyfriend – NRL superstar Nathan Cleary – was back home in Sydney as he prepares to return to pre-season training with Penrith.
The halfback was recently on holiday in the US, and some football fans hoped to see the three-time premiership winner cheering on Fowler in the stands, just like he did during the recent Olympic qualifiers in Perth.
Earlier this week, Fowler posted a cryptic poem on Instagram about life’s ‘awful moments’ as the sporting couple endure a long distance relationship.
Matildas fans were collectively stunned on Saturday after young gun Mary Fowler was benched ahead of the international friendly against Canada in Langford
NRL superstar Nathan Cleary returned home from the US this week – many fans thought he would be in Canada cheering on girlfriend and Matildas ace Mary Fowler
After months of innuendo, Cleary and Fowler went public with their romance in October
Following months of innuendo, Cleary and Fowler went public with their romance after Daily Mail Australia exclusively captured photos of the couple sharing some tender moments in a Perth park on October 31 ahead of a Matildas Olympic qualifier against Chinese Taipei.
Social media quickly erupted with memes about them dating before the couple said their goodbyes before Fowler flew back to England to play in the Women’s Super League with Manchester City.
Both athletes are said to be very private when it comes to their relationships, with sparks between the pair reportedly starting in August after they shared an ice cream together following a promotional event in Sydney.
The pair are both brand ambassadors for Adidas and were seen enjoying each other’s company once filming concluded with the global sports giant.
Following reports of the ice cream date, the first photos of Cleary and Fowler together came to light, with the duo enjoying a walk together along the Nepean River during Australia’s World Cup campaign.
Fowler and Cleary could reunite in person when she flies to Australia for a fan event featuring Matildas teammates Alanna Kennedy and Mackenzie Arnold on December 21.
The event will be staged at Sydney’s CommBank Stadium in Parramatta, just a half-hour drive from Cleary’s home in the NSW Blue Mountains.
Sparks between the high profile sporting pair reportedly started in August following a promotional event in Sydney
When holidaying the US, the three-time premiership-winning halfback enjoyed a night time helicopter ride over Manhattan (pictured)
Cleary had some rooftop drinks with mates during the trip to NYC, where he also got to see UFC 295 at Madison Square Garden
Cleary also let his hair down in Bali, on a family holiday (his sister Indi, is pictured left)
The halfback hurt his knee in the NRL Grand Final, which has delayed his return to pre-season training with the Panthers (pictured, with Boston Celtics assistant coach Sam Cassell)
When it comes to the Matildas, changes to the usual starting XI were expected given captain Sam Kerr (foot), goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold (arm), striker Holly McNamara (knee) and defender Charlotte Grant (hamstring) are all injured.
Sarah Hunter, Jada Whyman, Alex Chidiac and Remy Siemsen were drafted into Tony Gustavsson’s squad to replace the quartet.
‘These final two games of of the year will be invaluable,’ the Matildas coach said.
‘There’s been a lot of players that have performed really well as of late, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the respond against a quality opponent.’
Canada will also farewell one of the greatest footballers of all-time in Christine Sinclair, who is poised to play the final matches of her distinguished career.
A 14-time Canada Soccer Player of the Year, Sinclair has captained her nation since 2006, played in six World Cups, 10 CONCACAF tournaments and four Olympic Games, winning gold at the Tokyo Games in 2021.